Economic relief: Democrats push for more aid
House Democrats laid out priorities this week for another economic stimulus package, said Haley Byrd in CNN.com, “with more direct payments for individuals, money for state and local governments, and funding for infrastructure,” as well as provisions to address water systems, broadband, and 5G cell service. In a tweet, President Trump also called for a new stimulus package with $2 trillion of infrastructure spending. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R.-Ky.), however, said he preferred to wait “a few weeks” before pursuing a fourth relief measure.
Airlines: Refusing to return money
Many airlines are flouting regulations and refusing to give passengers refunds, said Scott McCartney in The Wall Street Journal. “The Transportation Department requires giving customers an option to take a full refund if the airline cancels a flight,” but United Airlines is making customers wait a year for refunds on canceled international flights, while Delta is “charging some customers ‘cancellation fees’ if they want cash back” rather than a voucher for future travel. At least 30 foreign carriers, including Lufthansa, Air France, and Emirates, have “blocked travel agents from issuing refunds,” arguing that government-imposed travel restrictions justify offering only travel vouchers.
Markets: Hopes dim for a quick turnaround
The Dow Jones Industrial Average had its worst quarter in a 124-year history, said Anne Sraders in Fortune.com. The index fell roughly 23 percent in the past three months ending this week, a slide never seen before in Q1, and “the worst overall quarter for the Dow since 1987.” Investors “are growing even more bearish” as the U.S. enters the worst phase of the coronavirus crisis. In a survey by Boston Consulting Group, “a whopping 87 percent of investors don’t foresee a rapid ‘V-shaped’ bounce back to pre-crisis economic levels and growth rate.”
Oil: More than the world can store
The pandemic has reduced global demand for oil so far that storage could hit maximum capacity “within weeks,” said Sam Meredith in CNBC.com. A three-year pact between producers to curb output ended this week, and “Saudi Arabia has pledged to hike output to a record high” amid a price war with Russia. Landlocked oil producers are already starting to see negative prices, meaning they are paying refiners to take the product off their hands. Prices for Wyoming Asphalt Sour, a dense grade of crude, recently fell to negative 19 cents a barrel.